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V. V. ('Sugi') Ganeshananthan Oral History Interview

V. V. ('Sugi') Ganeshananthan is an Ilankai Tamil American fiction writer and scholar based at the University of Minnesota. Her first novel is titled Love Marriage and her second novel was forthcoming at the time of this archived interview. Sugi discusses her upbringing and experiences being in Tamil American spaces. The interview is important because it documents the history of how, even among outwardly apolitical families (with regards to Sri Lanka) like Sugi's, Tamil nationalism was still integrated into the psychosocial and emotional realities of young Tamils through forms of social organizing and cultural milieu. Sugi's interview documents the history of Tamil nationalism as a cultural formation based on rituals, forms of gathering, artifacts, and literature, all of which were distributed in spaces that were intended for social gathering and building community among Tamil immigrant families in the United States.

Sugi discusses her memories of going to events organized by Tamil Sangams, or Tamil social organizations, and how these seemingly apolitical events also hosted LTTE tables and distributed literature about female Tiger cadres. She talks about how she experienced alienation among Indian Tamils in Sangam spaces, parallel to the presence of acculturated Tamil nationalism that centered on the conflict in Sri Lanka. Sugi also discusses the memories of her upbringing that disrupted the Tamil nationalist ephemera that she grew up in. An example of these memories includes being given a rare hard copy of The Broken Palmyrah to read, after which she went on her own search of a hard copy and now possesses a copy of former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, the late William Howard Wriggins, that includes his marginalia. She discusses experiences learning from family members and other community members about internecine violence and stories that complicated the hegemonic narrative of war between Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups. She discusses how her feminism is committed to believing stories like that of the "Grease Yakkas." She also discusses her experiences being mentored by Jamaica Kincaid, and how this has influenced her own writing.

Headshot by Annette Hornischer courtesy of American Academy in Berlin

Activism, Arts, Community Organizations & Organizing, Memory & Remembrance

Duration: 00:55:29

Date: March 22, 2022
Subject(s): V. V. ('Sugi') Ganeshananthan
Type: Oral History
Source: Archival Creators Fellowship Program
Creator: Kartik Amarnath
Contributor: V. V. ('Sugi') Ganeshananthan
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Collection: Kartik Amarnath Fellowship project
Donor: V. V. ('Sugi') Ganeshananthan
Item History: 2022-06-24 (created); 2022-06-29 (modified)

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